It’ll be a little like in hockey in the same building back in 1989.
Somebody was missing.
The Great One wasn’t there.
It’ll be like that when the 37th Canadian Finals Rodeo comes out of the chutes at Rexall Place.
The Grate One won’t be there.
Grated Coconut, arguably the greatest bucking horse in history, the six-time world champion who won eight selections to both the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the National Final Rodeo, completed his career with the events in Edmonton and Las Vegas last year.
There’s no bucking bronc superstar here this year.
“When it comes to the bucking horses, we don’t have our Tiger Woods anymore,” said Rod Hay, the winningest cowboy in Canadian Finals history, who won’t be out there this year, either, due to a broken leg suffered in Innisfail while on top of the world saddle bronc money winning list.
“Like golf, there’s a lot of other good ones out there. But Grated Coconut was our Tiger Woods.”
The real stars of rodeo are not the cowboys, they’re the stock stars. If nobody ever gets bucked off or scores 80-plus point rides, there’s no 90,000 or so fans filling the seats here every November, no $50-million economic impact.
Sure, the cowboys who compete every night are the ones with the household names, if your household is home on the range. But real rodeo fans make sure they’re in the building on Friday night and Sunday afternoo,n when the high point producers are put together for their go-rounds.
Over the years this event has seen the greatest Canadian rodeo bucking horses of all time. Moonshine was there for the first nine. Transport was selected every year from 1974 to 1991. Guilty Cat was a 16-timer. Sarcee Sorrel made it 11 times.
Cindy Rocket. High Chaparrel. Lonesome Me. Moon Rocket. Kingsway Skoal. American Express. Coyote. Air Wolf. They’ve all been stock stars at the CFR.
And no bucking bronc had been a bigger attraction than Grated Coconut, who was honoured with a special retirement ceremony July 15 at the Calgary Stampede.
When The Grate One is gone, it’s time to look for The Next One.
Who better to ask than the greatest one of all-time on the human side of the CFR, all-time money winner Hay?
Hay is a saddle bronc competitor, and Grated Coconut was a bareback bronc, so he doesn’t have exactly the personal relationship of, say, a Davey Shields Jr., who rode to a record-breaking 95 on him to win Calgary in 2005, or Dusty LaValley, who scored a 91 on him one year in Denver and drew him regularly to win lots.
Cimarron Gerke, who remarkably rode him five times out of six, called him “the most exciting and scariest horse I’ve ever been on — he scared even the bull riders who were watching.”
But Hay was more than familiar with Graded Coconut.
“They always asked me to turn him out when I was around,” he said. “He could turn and kick you. Standing flat on four feet, he could jump and kick you at the back of the chute. That’s a heck of an athletic feat. I’m glad he retired. I told them that I wanted a helmet and a face mask the next time they asked me to turn him out.”
Hay, the Wildwood cowboy who has won a record eight Canadian saddle bronc titles, had nothing better to do this week than to set the pens for proceedings.
“There’s no lack of talent here this year. We didn’t have a problem picking the field. We left a lot of good ones at home,” he said.
In saddle bronc, they have horses who should be stars just by their names alone.
Snake Bite. War Cry. John Wayne. Exploding Rocket. Luxurious Bubbles. Atomic Betty. Devil’s Who. Distiller. F Bomb. High Noon. Free Agent. Awesome. And my personal favourite, Medevil Knevil.
“Medevil Knevil does not like people,” said Hay.
“Kids could feed Grated Coconut with carrots and sugar. Not Medevil Knevil.”
He goes in the Thursday and Saturday pens with the broncs the cowboys call the eliminators, the ones you don’t want to have anything to do with, the ones tough to both stay on and to score on.
“Awesome fits the name. NFR Saddle bronc horse of the year and CFR bareback horse of the year. Franklin’s Blue Too and Kessler’s Starburst are really good in the air, give you a good ride and look spectacular. John Wayne has been a top horse for a lot of years,” said Hay.
The Next One?
“There’s three real good young ones,” Hay reports. “Free Agent. Southern Lights. Hot Gossip.”
But if you’re coming to see The One in 2010, be there Friday and Sunday to watch Get Smart. Sired by the same Wyatt Earp as Graded Coconut, he’s the one you want to draw.
“He’s smaller sized but he bucks really hard,” said Hay.
“He’s either going to buck you off or you’re first.”